The Quiapo church on Simbang Gabi.
MANILA: The traditional Simbang Gabi, which kicks off the country’s Christmas season, starts today as the Filipino faithful flock to churches for the dawn Mass.
Simbang Gabi, which ironically is celebrated at dawn, is a nine-day event that runs from Dec 16 to 24. It marks the country’s unique Christmas celebration described as the longest in the world.
From high-end communities to the remotest barrio, church bells ring at exactly four every morning to call on the faithful to join a tradition that dates back to 1587 in Mexico.
It was initiated by Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the convent of San Agustin Acolman, who petitioned the Pope to allow the holding of Christmas Mass outdoors to accommodate the huge number of people who crowded the church.
In 17th century, the Spanish conquistadores introduced the Christmas Mass in the Philippines and this was quickly adapted by the Filipinos. The tradition has hardly changed over the centuries.
Just like during the Spanish era, the Simbang Gabi is held in pre-dawn hours to symbolize the actual time of the birth of Christ.
The dawn Masses were soon termed as Misa de Gallo, referring to the crowing of the roosters.
In the early times, parish priests would even go around town and knock on the doors of the faithful to wake them up for the Misa de Gallo.
The dawn Mass was said to be most convenient for the rural folk who need to plow the fields or to catch fish before sunup. – Philstar